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With the rising pressure due to population growth, cities are turning to technology to ensure livability, workability & sustainability. IoT is at the heart of it all.

Cities Smarten Up with the Internet of Things

Photo by: The University of Sheffield

We live in a world where the rapid population growth and densification of cities is putting intense pressure on infrastructure. Managing the resources needed for a city to function, from water, to energy, to transportation and communications (just to name a few) are in jeopardy. This trend towards urbanization shows no mercy with approximately 54% of the world’s population now living in a city, compared to only 24% in 1950!

Powered by the Internet of Things (IoT), smart city solutions could be the very answer to these critical, urban infrastructure issues.

So, what exactly IS a “smart city”?

Although cities have been using data in various forms for decades, the modern practice of civic analytics has only begun to take off in the past few years, thanks to a host of technological changes. At the core of it, we have inexpensive sensors and other IoT technologies, that can track a vast array of information such as gunshots, traffic or air pollution. In addition, there is machine learning, that puts advanced analytical tools in the hands of city officials; communication networks and devices, that enable citizens and city workers alike to monitor problems and feed information back to city hall; and the cloud, which dramatically lowers the costs of storing information. All of these technologies are joining forces to improve liveability, workability and sustainability, thanks to a data-rich view of the city's ecosystem.

And, who is leading the charge?

For starters, we know that China aims to have 50+ smart cities while India is targeting 109 smart cities under a program launched by its prime minister. As for individual cites, the leaders today are Barcelona, Singapore, Seoul, London, New York, Stockholm, Shanghai, Oslo, and San Francisco.

It would be hard to over-estimate this largely untapped opportunity knowing that the global “smart cities” market is projected to be $1.6T (yup, your read it right...TRILLION) by 2020 and smart city services will be a $225B market by 2026. This should get a lot of people interested given opportunities span across industries, geographies, and economies.

Navigant’s report tracks 252 smart city projects which included government-led initiatives (40%), smart energy (27%), smart transportation (18%), smart buildings (11%), and smart water projects (4%). Here are examples of smart city applications from two leading cities, primarily built on IoT technologies:

Barcelona: 22 programs encompassing 83 distinct projects, including 19,500 smart meters that monitor and optimize energy consumption, smart municipal trash bins that monitor waste and optimize collection routes, digital bus stops that make waits more convenient, parking sensors that guide drivers to available spaces ($50M increase in revenue annually), 1100 LED lamp posts that dim to conserve energy ($37M annual savings) and collect air quality data, systems to remotely sense and control park irrigation and public fountain water levels ($58M annual savings)

Singapore: Smart Nation program, including sensors that monitor energy, waste, and water in individual apartments and provide feedback, the Elderly Monitoring System that detects non-movement, tests of autonomous cars and buses on city streets, bus fleet monitoring to optimize bus deployment to reduce wait times and crowdedness, plans to monitor traffic at the individual-car level, a Virtual Singapore data platform and model of the entire country including building layouts, and widespread access to public data.

As smart sensors and other IoT hardware become less expensive, cities all over the world are engaging in efforts to capitalize on the opportunity and create the city of the future. For cities that can find the upfront investment and successfully implement, they have the potential to cut costs by as much as 26% while improving services. They’ll have to be patient though; many investments won’t see ROI for 10-15 years.

Without getting too carried away, while smart cities and IoT have the potential to make our lives tremendously more efficient, healthier and safer, such a level of connectedness can also bring risk in the form of cybersecurity and personal security threats. Industry watchers project 100B connected devices by 2025 supporting $10T in revenue, with 8.4B devices in 2017 – exceeding the number of humans! This means that there will be a lot of data being gathered, stored and used in a smart city, and the bulk of it being personal information about individuals and their habits—making smart cities a goldmine for hackers.

While there’s a lot of activity underway, we are still in the early-stages. The time is NOW for ALL cities to 'smarten up' with the local and global community in mind.

Smarten up yourself - and keep an eye out for more on how IoT is enabling smart cities to make the world a better place for all!

Read more:

o IoT startups geared towards smart cities

o What Deloitte is saying...

Smart City | Smart Nation

Funding and financing smart cities

Being smart about smart city solutions


o Smart cities explained in 101 secs

Credit: At Deloitte we have an amazing sensing/publication team, who, every week, create an innovation report for the internal organization called Global Line of Sight. It is SO juicy that we simply cannot share it with the public, BUT they have given me permission to pull from their publication and share bits. So, I give credit to the Global Line of Sight team for the great work they do!


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